It can happen to anyone, but it does not have to!

At Reynolds Training, we have always considered ourselves computer savvy and fully aware of the threat posed by online scammers. Our systems are safeguarded with the latest virus software and, like so many, we cast a manual net of caution over any suspicious looking emails which wash up in our inboxes.

Yet, late last year, we let our guard down. So it was in that moment, that we fell victim to online scammers.

This cautionary tale started back in November 2020 when we were duped by what was a simple ‘invoice interception’ fraud. Whilst I won’t go into detail, the interception resulted in us paying circa £25,000 to a false account. It looked legitimate enough. And, why wouldn’t it? The fraudulent account in question, after all, had seamlessly disguised itself as one of our service providers!

It is difficult to find words to adequately describe the devastating effects it has on you, let alone those around you. Not just as a business, but as a person. From the time it takes to report, document and manage, to the sleepless nights, self-doubt and cross checking of every single aspect of what you do, it invades all corners of your life and mind. Against the backdrop of all this, you still have the account to settle and a business to run with a £25k deficit.

The past three months have been punctuated by countless discussions with the bank. We logged the online scam with Action Fraud and, thereafter, counted the days to what we always hoped would be a successful resolution – knowing full well this was never guaranteed

We were one of the lucky ones. Our bank, after investigation, stood by their promise and reimbursed the loss. So, we live to tell the tale and, needless to say, are sleeping better than we have for quite some time.

On the downside, I’m slightly greyer. On the upside, I’m more informed and wiser.

Indeed, upon reflection, the fraud itself did not need to happen. The warning signs were there. Truth be told though, we missed them. We failed to question the key information which was presented to us. We did not verify that with the right people as we had done in the past. In essence, we had become complacent!

Work pressures are nothing new but, throw in the complications of working from home, and those pressures only get elevated.

Life is busy. We all know it is. So do the scammers. They prey on this and, when you let your guard down – even if momentarily – they are ready to pounce.

Actually, ‘scammers’ is too polite a word for them. They are thieves!

The email exchange looked and felt genuine. They had a genuine email address.  All of this gave the fraud a sense of authenticity.

Hindsight, as they say is 20/20. As with health and safety though, we learn from the past to secure a better tomorrow. Knowing what we now know, there where tell-tale signs. The tone used. The speed of replies. The checking for payment on the day. We missed challenging these… we let our guard down and they struck.

My message to you is therefore this: don’t live in a world of ‘if only’. That is what we have done this past 12 weeks. Mitigate this outcome by verifying clients, customers and service providers. Exchange details directly with the person who is requesting them – in person, by voice!

I view these as building robust layers of protection. Ensure you have them in place, and you use them. Always!

It really can happen to anyone, but it does not have to.

Stay well, stay safe… stay secure!

John Reynolds